By Jim Hagerty
Before Wired Cafe opened nearly seven years ago, Crystal Douglas was sure of a couple things.
First, her desire to remain in the corporate world had long waned. She also possessed a penchant for downtown Rockford and good coffee. A recipe for a new business suddenly came together.
Well, not quite. She still needed the right partners. She didn’t have to look very far though. Her oldest daughter, Shanna Hill, had worked in a coffee shop, while youngest Maggie also had customer service experience. All three shared the same affection for the center of the city.
So, at seven in the morning, July 12, 2010, Wired served its first cup of coffee at 414 E. State St.
A lot has changed along the corridor since that opening morning. Shops have opened. Festivals have been added. Simply put, there are more people downtown Rockford than ever before, continually adding to Wired’s loyal clutches that hail from all areas of town.
From lattes to house blends to signature muffins and wraps, customers enjoy a little bit everything, including yarn so gripping at times, it is likely where some of Rockford’s best-laid plans are hatched. Maybe not, but gripping is the yarn and stellar is the service, borne from a unique affection.
“We love people,” Douglas said.
And the people love Wired. It’s not uncommon for regulars to bus tables, give up seats for others and for multiple groups to simultaneously hold court as espresso flows and turkey chili simmers. While some merchants strive for such an atmosphere, the one at Wired is as organic as ever.
“There was an immediate acceptance,” Douglas said. “We felt there was a need for what we wanted to do. We stumbled upon our current location and it just clicked. It was meant to be.”
For Hill, there’s an innate sense of togetherness customers can sense with very little effort.
“What a way to come into work—with my mom and sister,” she said. “I love family. And I get to spend my days with them.”
The sentiment is often not a suitable bedfellow for family businesses. The line separating the two is easily blurred. It’s all family or all business. A healthy balance can be elusive given the emotions that are so greatly poured into both. Yet Wired possesses such poise.
“It can be hard to separate business and family,” Hill said. “But we don’t want to separate them too much. Because this is fun.”
Douglas admits she does assume the parental role more than she should.
“Momming,” instead of “businessing,” she calls it. But after all, she’s Mom.
“I am working on that,” she joked. “But, we are a close family. I honestly would not want to do this without Shanna, and I really enjoy having Maggie back at the helm with me. We flow.”
And so does the Wired staff.
“Let’s face it. This isn’t a career job for most,” she said. “I have to find people who are reliable, committed and trustworthy, self-motivated and can turn out a great product consistently.”
In other words, Douglas seeks staff who strive to see Wired succeed as much as she does. And, so far, she has.
Wired Cafe is open for breakfast and lunch, 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday thru Friday; and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays. Find more at wiredcaferockford.com.